Her Say

Her Say: A series featuring Women of color having their say about aging and living with spirit, style, and grace. #isthatold?

June Lewis Miklau, 77, lifestyle model, tech geek
June Lewis Miklau, 77, lifestyle model, tech geek

“When I was in my young 50s or 60s, my priorities were still dictated by a need to succeed. I would forego fun and was locked into competing as a black woman in the corporate world. Not anymore! At age seventy, I was signed by a major agency as a lifestyle model, I started an image consulting business and I became a tech geek. At 77, my hair may be gray, my body may ache, and I may not remember where I left my pocketbook. But, I feel young and enjoy living, laughing and loving my family and friends every day. I am always learning. I publish funny books for my grandchildren and produce movies of my family reunions.” ~June Lewis Miklau, 77, Oceanside, Ca. Lifestyle model, tech geek.

Diane Day Crump Richmond, 70, Las Vegas dancer, school teacher
Diane Day Crump Richmond, 70, Las Vegas dancer, school teacher

“Embrace your journey at every age. Following your passion can be a hard road full of sacrifice and difficult choices. I know. I had a show business career. I also went to college and became a public school teacher after 50 years old. Dance is still my passion and I perform with the ‘Las Vegas Forever Young’ dance troupe. Our ages range from 58-80 years old! I lived through everything. I’ve been a star and on the chorus line on many stages around the world. I survived racial segregation and everything that goes with unfair treatment of women and people of color. But I feel like I’m on top. I’m still here while many from my era are long gone. A positive attitude is everything. With a great family, terrific husband, grandchildren and friends, I have no complaints! I feel privileged to be 70 and still kicking up my heels!” ~Diane Day Crump-Richmond, 70, Las Vegas dancer, school teacher.

Gail Gant, 65, Brooklyn Snowbird
Gail Gant, 65, Brooklyn Snowbird

“I believe aging is a beautiful thing when you prepare yourself to live abundantly, as God intended. Some body parts may break down, but if you keep your health in check, you can enjoy life and ignore “Arthur” when he comes around. Who’s Arthur? That the nickname for ‘Mr. Arthritis.’ I exercise and can wear a beach bikini with confidence. I live life on my own terms. I’ve been through everything–two marriages, widowhood, divorce, parenthood, death of my mother as a child and murder of my son at 18 years old. I survived many hardships. And I prevailed by God’s good grace. I have a solid education and I retired from an executive finance career. I have many blessings, talents and interests. My philosophy is simple: Do what makes you happy. I travel, dance, and hike. I winter in the Caribbean and visit family and friends as often as I can everywhere. There will come a time when I can’t do those things. So, for now, I do me. I’ve earned it.” ~Gail Gant, 65, Brooklyn snowbird.

Do you know a woman of color who should be featured in our ‘Her Say’ series? Let us know.

photo by Sylvia Wong Lewis, from ‘Flying Home’ series’ by artist Faith Ringgold’s glass mosaic panel series in the NYC subway station at 125th street.

Oldest in the Family

My paternal great-great-great-grandmother, Tempe Burton, on porch w/ two mulatto daughters sitting w/Col. W.R. Stuart & wife, Lizzy. Tempe lived to 104 years old!

Who’s the oldest in your family? My husband and I met a group of baby boomers aboard a Natchez steamboat on the Mississippi River during our recent anniversary trip to Louisiana. It was obvious that they were on a family reunion trip. They all wore “Robinson Family” T-shirts. Our conversation naturally turned to –“Who was the oldest in their family/” and ‘How many generations could they trace?”

The feistiest lady in this African-American group said that she was the oldest on this trip at 78. She said that she could trace back to three generations. She also said that their oldest family member, great-Aunt Mamie Robinson, is 100 and lives in Georgia!

The friendly lady shared anecdotes about family as the others chimed in with affirmatives: “Old Auntie works in her garden everyday, cans all of her home-grown summer vegetables, and chops wood. She is what we call a ‘busy body.’ Folks drop in on her all day long. She especially likes the latest gossip. She tells funny stories too.  But Auntie always talks about hard work, whether folks had good manners and was ‘raised right’. ”

The lady explained that their family is spread out all over the globe now and that they had reunions in a variety of cities. “We’re the ‘old-school’ cousins. We have a tradition of coming to New Orleans for vacation since we were kids. So, here we are!” she said.

“Why do old people matter today?” I asked.  “Wisdom!” said the only man in the group. “Old people teach the young people their family history. Maybe they would have better sense if they knew what the earlier generations went through to survive!” said another spry boomer.

I believe that the oldest person in my family was Tempe Burton, a former slave. My genealogy buddy/cousin, Snow Fox Lawrence, shared an old newspaper clipping about our paternal great-great-great grandmother who lived to 104 in Ocean Springs, Miss!

Here is an obituary of my great-great grandmother Tempe Burton in a March 1925 Ocean Springs, Mississippi newspaper:

“Aunt Tempe Burton, the oldest person in Jackson County, died Sunday at the home of her son Alf Stewart. The funeral was held Monday afternoon and was largely attended by both white and colored friends. Tempe was said to be 104 years of age. She was an ex-slave and had made her home with the late Mrs. W.R Stuart for seventy years. When Mrs. Stuart was married, Aunt Tempe was given to her as a wedding gift and was Mrs. Stuart’s maid. When slavery was abolished she refused to leave her mistress and remained with her until the end. Mrs. Stuart died about two months ago.”

Who is the oldest person in your family? Where do/did they live?

I posed this question to new friends at a Blogging While Brown conference. Check out their amazing entries:

Miz Kp -“The oldest person in my family is my grand aunt. She was born in 1919. She is 94 and lives in Chesapeake, VA.”

April J. Cheatam Sands – “My great-grandmother lived to be 98 and died in 2006 in Wilmington, NC (born in 1907).”

Gina McCauley-  “I had a paternal great-grandmother that lived to 99. I have a cousin in Houston, TX that is 100+ year’s old. They do a story about her in the local news every year. My maternal grandmother lived until she was 93!”

Kahlil O. Haywood – “My grandmother is the oldest in my family. She’s 95.  She’s still alive. She’s from Panama, lives in Brooklyn.”

Lashuntrice Thestoryteller Bradley – “My great-grandmother is 86 and lives in Florida, born in Georgia.”

Alysia Christiani – “My paternal grandmother lived to 100. She was from Guyana, South America but died in Brooklyn, New York.”

Erica Kierulf – “My grandmother was born in Blue Fields, Nicaragua. Lived to 105. She resided in Chicago, IL.”

Deborah Smikle-Davis – “My wonderfully creative and inspiring paternal grandmother, Lillie Mae, lived to be 95. She resided in Lumberton, NC.”

Eva Greene Wilson – “Great-grandmother in Tobago lived to 104. I think she’d have lived longer if she hadn’t lost her sight and mobility. Being able to get up and down the hill to be “in people’s business” was what really kept her going.”

Who’s the oldest in your family? Do tell!